Sunday, February 20, 2011

McDonagh's 'Beauty Queen of Leenane' a Bit Beastly, but Still Worth Beholding -- Theater Review

Theater Review

The Beauty Queen of Leenane
a play by Martin McDonagh
Shattered Globe Theatre
presented at the Athanaeum Theater
Thru February 27, 2011

Martin McDonagh is a master at dark humor. I have now seen four plays by him--The Pillowman, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Lonesome West and now, The Beauty Queen of Leenane--plus In Bruges, a movie he wrote and directed, and have enjoyed everything.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane was the first of his plays to be staged, initially in Galway in 1996, and its subsequent Broadway run earned a Tony nomination. Today, in a local Chicago production by the recently reconstituted Shattered Globe Theatre, I saw it for the first time.

Although the acting and production values were stellar, I can't say I loved 'Beauty Queen' as much as The Pillowman or Lieutenant of Inishmore, my first two experiences with the Irish playwright's work. Back in November, when I saw a production of The Lonesome West for the first time, I said much the same thing.

Linda Reiter and Eileen Nicolai, above, were both quite good.
There was nothing really wrong with Beauty Queen, but with the strong Irish brogues sometimes hard to follow and the story of a spinster battling with her derisive mother lacking some of the over-the-top humor I've enjoyed in McDonagh's other plays, it took a quality production--directed by Steve Scott, an Associate Producer of Goodman Theatre--and a strong final half-hour to convince me that it deserves @@@@ out of 5.

If you're a McDonagh fan like I am, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is well worth your while, especially in support of the Shattered Globe, whose 19th season was in serious jeopardy last fall. But if you're looking to get acclimated to McDonagh or just catch a good play next weekend--which is the last of the run--there may be other works to behold ahead of this Beauty.

No comments: